Myself, Katrina Ramage, Susan Trodden and James Llewellyn met with officials and politicians in Hamilton from the Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, Local District Councils and KiwiRail to brief them on the Making Rail Work Concept. We covered the May 2022 Making Rail Work report on how intercity passenger rail in New Zealand’s Golden Triangle should be an economic priority. From evidence we had gathered we communicated that it is clear that work is already underway to make this happen, albeit in the background to public parlance.
We made the point that inter-regional passenger rail should be taken off the table as a political football. We mentioned we were about to host a Cross-Party Parliamentary meeting by Zoom on 3rd August 2022, our plan was to seek non-partisan political consensus for the re-introduction of inter-regional passenger rail, starting with connecting Tauranga as part of the economic Golden Triangle.
A key point we made was that timing for delivery does not have to be part of the agreement, nor does commitment to a full New Zealand network. Once broad consensus has been established, which should be set in the context of climate change and cost of living, the meeting could then be converted into a more cross-party parliamentary discussion. This would allow industry leaders to present and debate opportunities and challenges for the delivery of a network, and it would be a good way of ‘parking’ issues so they could be resolved periodically, which would ensure delivery schedules stayed on track.
We also talked about some of the key success factors and benefits of inter-regional passenger rail such as providing critical community links to New Zealand between cities, towns and country by connecting communities. It would also support economic growth; promote modal shift by encouraging public transport by increasing its attractiveness; improve transport corridors capacity and resilience across society as a whole; improve safety, reducing road congestion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, amongst many other factors.
It was a very engaging collaboration from officials as well as local body political leaders. We came away feeling energised for our upcoming cross party parliamentary briefing.
Only a few days later, partly as a response to these efforts, a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into the future of inter-regional passenger rail was launched with consensus from all Parliamentary political parties.